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The Poetic Agenda of Ferdowsi in Aetiologizing the Iranian Reception of Kalīla wa Dimna
The poetry of Ferdowsi’s Shāhnāma sets up an explicit parallelism between his Shāhnāma and Rōdaki’s Kalīla and Dimna: the uniqueness of both these works of poetry, in the words of Ferdowsi, depends on the turning of prose into poetry (Shāhnāma VIII 655.3460-3464 ed. Bertels). To make his point about the uniqueness of his Shāhnāma, Ferdowsi elevates the importance of poetic translation, since the original Persian reception of the Kalīla and Dimna involved a translation into prose, parallel to the earlier “translation” from Sanskrit into Arabic. Ferdowsi’s wording makes it clear that the Arabic version, as it is recited, he declares, even in his own era, remains in prose. What makes the version composed by Rōdaki so much better, in terms of the poetics advanced by Ferdowsi, is the turning of the original Persian prose, by Abuʾl-Fażl Balʿami (he is called simply Abuʾl-Fazl in the poetry of Ferdowsi) into the Persian poetry of Rōdaki. Similarly, in the case of the Shāhnāma, the poetry of Ferdowsi is presented as superior to earlier prose versions. The paper will delve into related questions, perhaps the most important of which is this: were these prose versions, as portrayed by Ferdowsi, composed in Pahlavi or in Persian?
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Central Asia
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